Country-Specific Challenges in Asia
Relocation can present a number of common challenges, such as housing, transport, and cultural differences, no matter where an international assignee is moving. But each country can also present its own set of unique challenges, whether it’s an emerging market or one that is fully developed. Here, we look at some of the recurring country-specific challenges that we have identified across key Asia locations and review their impacts on relocation.
Dual Careers/Spouse Support
With a rising number of dual-career families, spousal support is often key to a successful relocation. However, a partner’s ability to work during an assignment depends upon the country they are moving to and their marital status. Married partners moving to Hong Kong on a dependent visa are able to work, but those going to Singapore will need to get advance approval from the Ministry of Manpower. And dependent visa holders in Taiwan and South Korea must apply for a separate work permit.
Unmarried partners also may encounter particular issues when going on assignment to certain locations. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example, they are not eligible for a full dependent visa and must instead apply for a long-term visitor visa. In Singapore, unmarried partners can gain only a long-term social visit pass, and in South Korea, they must also enter on a visitor’s visa.
Similar challenges may be experienced by same-sex partners, regardless of whether they are married. In Singapore and Taiwan, same-sex partners are not given a dependent pass and need to enter the country as visitors. In Hong Kong, they are–in exceptional circumstances–granted a dependent permit, although this is totally discretionary and requires a marriage certificate. Without such proof, the partner would need to enter as a visitor. Of course, visitor visas restrict the spouse’s option to work whilst their partner is on assignment.
Securing a School Place
Places in Singapore’s international schools are becoming more limited, especially for the most popular options including Singapore American School (SAS), United World Colleges (UWC), and Tanglin Trust. In Hong Kong, schooling is one of the biggest challenges that assignees and their families face. As both locals and expatriates are eligible to apply for international school places, most schools have long waiting lists. Places for children between the ages of four and nine are particularly low in availability, and this means that siblings may not be able to attend the same school. To meet this challenge, families should apply as early as possible and remain flexible in their school choice by considering at least two or three different options.
It is also important to know that very few international schools in Hong Kong offer special needs assistance. Should a relocating family require such support, this will need to be discussed with the school as early as possible, typically during the enquiry stage.
In South Korea, assignees should be made aware that a substantial deposit may be required to secure rental accommodation. Typically, between 60% and 70% of a property’s value may need to be paid when signing the lease. Whilst this does not impact all properties, it is best to be prepared, and organizations should consider this when budgeting for housing allowances. South Korea also limits payments in South Korean Won to an equivalent of US$19,000 for any one payment to landlords.
View our Resource Page for additional information on moving to other locations around the world, including typical challenges faced by assignees and their families.